Today’s journalists face modern challenges. Online media platforms are surging. But the lowly newspaper—and its reporters—are fighting money, tech, and distrust issues. Journalism students and teachers must emphasize new skills to keep their profession alive.
A trustworthy press helps inform people and monitors all levels of government. That is essential to a free nation. We call all the collected means by which journalists and broadcasters bring the news to people—newspapers, magazines, TV, podcasts, websites, radio—the media. Yet this useful establishment is growing increasingly unpopular. A report from the Knight Foundation says that 43% of Americans say the media does a poor job of supporting democracy. Many people blame a biased and corrupt press. Of course, the problem isn’t the method of news delivery. It’s human nature.
According to the University of North Carolina, newsroom jobs across the country are fewer than half what they were 10 years ago. And on many college campuses, the news about the news is bleak too.
Take the Syracuse, New York, student-run Daily Orange: It isn’t daily anymore. The paper prints just three times each week. Next year, the University of Maryland Diamond will be online only. Half the newspapers that still exist on paper say they don’t print as many copies. And UNC’s Daily Tar Heel has cut staff pay and rented cheaper offices to make its budget.
Considering the problems in journalism, it’s surprising that enrollment in college journalism programs is up.
Daily Orange managing editor Catherine Leffert calls the layoffs and cutbacks “disheartening. . . . But what keeps me wanting to be a journalist . . . is seeing the effect that the D.O. has.”
Another boost to budding journalists is coming from an unusual source. University of Maryland journalism dean Lucy Dalglish says President Donald Trump’s disdain for the media has made more students interested in becoming reporters.
But journalism educators wonder, “Are we preparing young people for a dying industry?”
Years ago, journalism graduates took low-level reporter jobs at newspapers or television stations. That still happens. But today’s jobs more often involve digital editing, social media production, and video streaming.
Some universities are focusing on specialized programs. The University of Florida offers a sports media program. Several schools highlight statistics-driven data journalism.
The news isn’t all bad. Journalism professor Kathleen Culver says, “When I look at 18- and 20-year-olds [in journalism] and see what they want to do, I’m optimistic.”
Maddy Arrowood is the student editor of the Daily Tar Heel. She says her experience makes her more interested in a journalism career, not less. Her optimism “comes from knowing that people still need news. They still need information.”